Delaney's aces are wild
By Ian Ross
After blazing through opposition all season with a 22-game winning streak, the Western women's basketball team's quest for a national championship was up in the air Sunday night. Losing to the York Yeowomen 83-76 in the OWIAA semifinals in Waterloo, the loss prevented the Mustangs from competing in the OWIAA final, which holds a guaranteed invitation to the CIAU championships.
With several assets leaning in the team's favour, the call came in late Sunday night from the wild card committee Western is headed to the CIAU championships in Thunder Bay on a wild card bid.
Although the addition of Western places four out of eight teams in Ontario in the championship tournament, it was impossible for the wild card committee to ignore the noise that this team has made all season, proven by holding a number-one Canadian ranking for nine of 11 weeks, the result of a 27-2 record.
"Everyone was holding their breath," captain Angela Nobes said, "Especially considering how we were forgotten three years ago by the committee."
To back up its bid for the wild card position, the team rebounded from Saturday's emotional defeat and played one of its best games of the season against Laurentian Sunday in the bronze-medal game, running over its competition by 32 points in a 107-75 drubbing.
"We went out on Sunday to prove ourselves," Nobes said. "I think the York game was definitely a wake up call for us."
The direct cause of Sunday night's tension was the result of a prepared and hungry York team that only 24 hours before had proven that Western's unbeatable team was actually beatable.
"We just ran into a York team that was definitely hot. They probably played their best game of the season," head coach Bob Delaney said.
York came into the match with a game plan to upset the country's number-one team and found success in its preparation.
"Our plan was not to allow [Jennifer] Haylor to get loose," former Mustang and now York head coach Bill Pangos said. "She got loose near the end a few times and I got a little upset with my team at that point."
Down by 10 at the half, the Mustangs stormed back in the second half and took the lead with four minutes to play. But as the clock wound down Western was unable to hold the lead against a powerful York team.
"The girls dug deep and we knew what we wanted to do, but we just fell a little bit short at the end," Nobes said.
Western's nemesis was Karen Jackson, who poured in 29 points and was clearly the leader of York's attack. With Haylor shut down most of the game and veteran Nadia Pezzolo playing with an ailing knee, Western was limited from its usual wide range of weapons.
"Karen Jackson was simply unstoppable," Delaney said. "The key was when Bartolotta fouled out, we didn't have anybody to cover her."
With a wild card pass in its back pocket, the team will head to Thunder Bay this weekend to play Victoria in a quarter-final matchup that will hopefully be the first step in re-establishing Western's title as Canada's best.
RUNNING WITH THE NIGHT. Angela Nobes drives the lane during this weekend's playoff game against York. The women lost 83-76 but earned a bid to the CIAU tournament in Thunder Bay.